Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

September 8, 2013

Editorial: Leelanau proving political agenda is what counts

Step by step, the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners is isolating itself — and with it the county’s 21,000 residents and businesses — from regional planning and business development services, all for the sake of an extreme political ideology.

The latest move being weighed by the board, apparently at the urging of Commissioner Melinda Lautner, is to withdraw from the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, ostensibly over concerns that the COG doesn’t spend taxpayer money wisely enough.

Lautner was apparently shocked — shocked — to find out that the COG has in the past given at least one employee a bonus, that it provides cell phones to employees and — gasp — even cars to do Council of Governments business.

The county’s stake? Leelanau pays a whopping $5,000 a year (from its $11 million general fund budget) in dues to the COG.

Like moves earlier this year to dissolve the county’s Economic Development Corporation and reject a partnership with the Traverse Bay Area Economic Development Corporation — which worked to find ways to stimulate job growth — seeking to dissolve ties with the COG is way out of proportion to its alleged sins.

And it’s further proof that the Leelanau board is more interested in furthering its own political agenda than in what’s good for county taxpayers.

County business leaders — already distressed by the Economic Development escapade — say the Council of Governments aids start-up businesses, provides technical and growth assistance for existing businesses, and helps the unemployed find jobs through the Michigan Works program.

The COG is also a way for the county to access federal funds for infrastructure development — like harbors or road or other improvements.

If the county withdraws from the COG, will the board find — and provide — alternate ways to help new start-ups or offer technical assistance for county-based firms looking to expand? What about a new firm that wants advice on how to use social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook? Do they just have to find it — and pay for it — themselves? Will the board help those actively seeking work land a job? Can it provide the kind of database Michigan Works maintains to help job seekers find work?

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